Delta Air Lines has promised to improve staff training after a flight attendant allegedly called out a deaf passenger who was wearing a “Just deaf, Not rude” face mask on a recent flight to Hartford. Kelli Adrienne Duncan, 43, a deaf paramedic who specializes in occupational health and uses sign language to communicate says she was left “hurt” by the experience but has been encouraged by Delta’s response to the incident.
Duncan says after she and her friend had boarded the flight and were working out where to go to find their seats, they heard one of the flight attendants behind them loudly and rudely ask: “Are you really deaf?”.
After telling the flight attendant that yes, indeed, she was deaf, the incident seemingly went no further although Duncan says she “was very hurt to know someone would insult a disabled person who has had to deal with this my whole life.”
“I was very glad that my best friend was there because I usually travel alone and frequently struggle with communication due to the masks,” Duncan told Yahoo! News.
But after hearing about what had happened, Kelli’s sister, ESPN host Elle Duncan, took to Twitter to berate Delta about the way the flight attendant had treated a deaf passenger. That was back on October 10 and Delta was quick to react and make things right.
“Delta contacted her almost immediately and said they would investigate the incident,” Kelli explained. “They told her they will have the crew attend sensitivity training and will look into providing masks that show the mouth so deaf and hard of hearing folks can read lips,” she continued.
Delta was unable to confirm specifics of the incident citing privacy concerns but in a statement, a spokesperson for the airline said it expects all of its “employees to treat all customers and each other with respect, and we do not discriminate against customers for any reason”.
“The feedback we received will be incorporated in messaging to employees improving customer communication and awareness in a unique environment where masks may limit people’s ability to express themselves and be understood,” the statement concluded.
Duncan praised Delta for being “very supportive” and says she hoped her experience will become a teaching moment that will help prevent ignorance of someone’s disabilities being an issue in the future.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.